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05.22.2019 • WedneSday • M 2


Hochman From B1

one-of-a-kind moments and different stages in your life. Earning your driver’s license, graduating from high school, getting married. And now, you can refer to that feeling from Tuesday — the time you felt something you never felt before as a Blues fan, that all-encompassing bliss, that unwavering, irreversible feeling. St. Louis 5, San Jose 1. The Blues won Game 6. The Blues will play the Boston Bruins for the Stanley Cup. “I don’t know if I cried that much when I actually won,” said Brett Hull, the greatest Blue, who won his first Stanley Cup with Dallas. “And we still haven’t won anything yet. But it’s so exciting for this franchise and this city and the fans. . . . “The way they were playing (in Game 5), it was like there was no chance we were going to lose (Game 6). I saw (the team owner) Mr. Stillman before the game, and I was like: ‘Are you OK?’ He looked like he was scared to death. I go: ‘Tom, don’t worry! We have no chance of losing.’ “It was after the clock hit zero when, all of a sudden, the flood of emotions came. I saw Bob Plager and was like: ‘Oh my God!’ And I watched Kelly Chase out here crying.” The last day the Blues were in a Stanley Cup finals game, May 10, 1970, Bobby Orr scored and soared above the ice. Only four times since then had the Blues even advanced to the conference finals. And now, finally, the Stanley Cup finals. “It’s so special to be able to do this in this town,” said forward Alexander Steen, the longest-tenure current Blues player. “I don’t think people outside this city understand what a community we have here. It’s very special.” Some folks might compare the Blues’ fan base to the long-suffering followers of the Detroit Lions or Cleveland Indians, or those even of the Chicago Cubs before they ended their drought in 2016. However, here’s the thing about the Blues — those other teams have gone through long droughts where, very early in the season, it was known that the team was bad. But the Blues often have been, at least, pretty good. The longest stretch they have gone without making the playoffs is three years. They had a streak in which they made the postseason tournament every year for a quarter-century! Yet, not once in that span did they advance the finals. An annual tease, annual tempting, annual torture. If you’re picking your poison, that might be more brutal than being a fan of a hopeless loser for long stretches in numerous generations. And, of course, this particular season was an emotional whirlwind, not one for the weak. On January 2, the St. Louis Blues had the fewest points in the National Hockey League. Asked when he truly thought they could turn this thing around, defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said: “Honestly, probably not until that streak and we won 10 games.


Blues fan Trey Kerr, 35, cries with joy as the team wraps up its victory over San Jose on Tuesday night that sent it to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1970. “You have no idea how much this means to me,” Kerr said.


Jaden Schwartz and Tyler Bozak celebrate Bozak’s goal during the third period Tuesday. In the background is interim coach Craig Berube. Before that, you’re looking at the standings and are like, ‘Man, we’ve got to jump over a lot of teams. Unless we do something like (a crazy winning streak), it’s not going to happen.’ And when we did, we kind of got closer and then we were playing good. You’re like, ‘OK, we’re playing good and we

have a lot of division games to play. Maybe we can make the playoffs.’ But up until that point, we might have been playing better, but the reality was — if we didn’t win all those games, we just weren’t going to catch up.” And the next matchup couldn’t be

sweeter. Of course, if the Blues had matched up with the Carolina Hurricanes, in whatever city those guys are in, it would’ve been quite a big deal. But there’s something almost ceremonial about the possibility of St. Louis beating Boston to win its first Stanley Cup. The Bruins, an “original six” team, were the opponent in the Blues’ most-recent Stanley Cup finals. The NBA’s St. Louis Hawks won their only championship in 1958, when Bob Pettit and the boys beat the Boston Celtics. The St. Louis Rams lost Super Bowl XXXVI to the New England Patriots. And the St. Louis Cardinals have had numerous World Series battles with the Boston Red Sox. Seemingly each generation of Cards fans have faced the Red Sox in the fall classic. In 1946, the Cards won on the famed “Mad Dash” by Enos Slaughter; in 1967, Bob Gibson and “El Birdos” won it all; in 2004, the Cards were an amazing team, but the Red Sox made history and won it all; in 2013, David Ortiz and Boston broke St. Louis hearts, yet again. A couple stars of that 2013 team — Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright — were among the fans Tuesday at Enterprise Center. During Game 6, the ballplayers were interviewed on the jumbotron. “Waino” yelled into the microphone: “We want to see a Stanley Cup finals come to St. Louis!” Well, it’s actually happening. Dreams are coming true. Benjamin Hochman @hochman on Twitter bhochman@post-dispatch.com

Gordon From B1

and endured many numbing setbacks. So their persistent chant of “We want the Cup!” Tuesday night was understandable. “This city and what’s gone on here ... you look up at the screen and you see Yadi (Molina) here, the baseball players here with their Blues sweater on,” Plager said amid the postgame celebration. “We went to the finals a few times, I didn’t see any Cardinals with the Blues sweater on. They’ve taken this city.” Just a few months ago, fans feared this team would cause more exasperation. This talent-laden squad underachieved under fretful coach Mike Yeo and it was slow to respond when Craig Berube replaced him. Then, when you least expected it, the Blues pulled together and began their long climb up the standings and into the bracket. They upset Winnipeg in six games, outlasted Dallas in seven and then dispatched the Sharks to avenge their loss in the 2016 conference finals. “We built for a long time, over the years,


Blues goalie Jordan Binnington blocks a shot from San Jose’s Micheal Haley, right, while Robert Thomas defends on Tuesday night. to get this opportunity,” Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. The Blues won the last two games of the series by a combined scored of 10-1. They looked very capable of taking the fight to

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SINCE 1950


The Blues’ David Perron celebrates a goal that Brayden Schenn scored despite the Boston in the Cup finals. “They have a hard team, a hard team to efforts of San Jose’s Joakim Ryan (47) and play against,” winger Vladimir Tarasenko goaltender Martin Jones. Schenn’s goal gave said of the Bruins. “We have a hard team the Blues a 3-1 lead in the second period. too.” Back in the late 60s, Blues fans must bailed. The Dave Checketts group came have believed their team would always be along, ran out of money and bailed. Finally Tom Stillman brought stability. in the hunt. It was best of the NHL’s six new teams, loaded with well-respected “Mr. Stillman said, ‘Here, get us a winner, whatever it costs, whatever we have to spend veterans. The Blues advanced out of the expansion to get it,’” Plager said.“We’ve done that.” During their five-plus decades, the Blues bracket to the Cup finals in their first three years, only to get swept by Montreal twice have suffered much heartache, includand Boston once. Then the NHL blended ing Bob Gassoff’s fatal motorcycle wreck, the expansion teams with the Original Six the brain tumors that took down Barclay Plager and the cancer that claimed broadteams to balance the conferences. The easy path to the Cup finals vanished caster Dan Kelly. “Barclay’s wife was up there, his kids,” and the Blues spent the better part of five decades battling to stay relevant and, at Plager said of the alumni box. “A lot of tears up there.” times, stay in business. Doug Wickenheiser and Erik Johnson, Through all of their travails, the Blues employed some of the greatest hockey minds: two former first overall draft picks, sufLynn Patrick, Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour, fered catastrophic knee injuries during Cliff Fletcher, Jimmy Devellano, Jacques team parties. Then there were the many Demers, Emile Francis, Mike Keenan, Joel management-inflicted wounds with bad trades. Quenneville and Ken Hitchcock. The team sent a emerging goal-scorer The Blues also featured many of the league’s all-time scorers, including Wayne Paul MacLean to Winnipeg for defenseman Gretzky, Adam Oates, Doug Gilmour, Dale Scott Campbell, who quickly retired due to Hawerchuk, Brett Hull, Brendan Shana- his asthma condition. And how about swaphan, Pierre Turgeon, Al MacInnis, Peter ping Gilmour for Mike Bullard? Yeah, Dougie had some off-ice issues, but come on. Stastny and Phil Housley. Can you imagine sacrifice a young Rod But ownership instability became a recurring theme. Sid Salomon Jr. was an Brind’Amour to get Ron Sutter and Murray awesome expansion owner, but his son Sid Baron? Or moving Chris Pronger for Eric Salomon III let things slide. Ralston Purina Brewer and scraps? There are so many colorful memories! picked up the pieces, but eventually shut down the franchise after the NHL blocked But now Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, Ryan O’Reilly and Jordan Binnington are getting its sale to Saskatoon investors. Harry Ornest swooped in, slashed costs the opportunity Garry Unger, Brian Sutter, and unleashed the family dog in the bow- Bernie Federko and Mike Liut never got. “We want do it for the city, one more els of The Arena. Mike Shanahan’s group rescued the team and spent record-setting round,” defenseman Colton Parayko said. “Let’s keep going.” dollars to add star power to the franchise. But in time those money guys fired Sha- Jeff Gordon • 314-340-8175 nahan, then bailed themselves. Bill and @gordoszone on Twitter Nancy Laurie came along, lost millions and jgordon@post-dispatch.com